Monday, June 22, 2015

The Enchantment of Gatsby

I was slow in reading this "Great American Novel." I finally got around to it in the past year. It awed and amazed me. The Great Gatsby is a remarkable and readable book. But what is even more interesting is its history, insights, imagery and beautiful writing. NPR Fresh Air book critic Maureen Corrigan has written an easily accessible book about this novel that continues to deserve its following. So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures gives both insights into the book's construction and commentary on the US in the mid-1920s and the writing and ups and downs of its author and its popularity.

When I mentioned to my daughter, who loves the book, that I hadn't read the book in high school she was shocked. Reading Corrigan's book, it would appear that my high school years (the first half of the 1960s) was when this novel was beginning to become the great novel it is now. Chances are it may not even have been on reading lists in my high school at that point. Corrigan covers the novel's critique of the "American Dream" and how Jay Gatsby et. al. lay it bare. Her deep knowledge of the book was refreshing and enjoyable.

Another "Great American Novel" I am currently reading for the first time is The  Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck's critique of the American economic system of the 1930s. I am mesmerized by his use of language and description. His attention to the smallest details of the land and people in the dust bowl years is entrancing and pulls me into the world of the howling wind, lost dreams and living hopes.

There are reasons why some of these books have become standards. Finally I am enjoying them. Better late than never.

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